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Mythologies 
of the 

Ancient World 

EDITED AND 

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 

Samuel Noah Kramer 

WITH CONTRIBUTIONS BY 

Rudolf Anthes Hans G. Guterbock 

Derk Bodde Michael H. Jameson 

W Norman Brown Samuel Noah Kramer 
M.J. Dresden Miguel Leon-Portilla 

Cyrus H. Gordon E. Dale Saunders 


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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

Excerpts from And Now All This by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, published in 
the United States by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., are reprinted by permission of 
Methuen & Co. Ltd. 

Excerpts from Agamemnon from Complete Greek Tragedies, translated by Rich- 
mond Lattimore, and from The Iliad, translated by Richmond Lattimore, 
copyright 1951 by The University of Chicago, are included by permission of The 
University of Chicago Press. 

Excerpts from Hesiod: The Works and Days ; Theogony; The Shield of Herakles, 
translated by Richmond Lattimore and published in 1959 by The University of 
Michigan Press, are reprinted by permission of The University of Michigan Press. 

Excerpts from Essays and Addresses by Gilbert Murray, published in the United 
States by Houghton Mifflin Company under the title Tradition and Progress, are 
reprinted by permission of George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 

Mythologies of the Ancient World, an Anchor Original, is also available in a hard- 
bound edition from Quadrangle Books, Inc. , 119 West Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois . 

The illustration on page 16 is reproduced by kind permission 
of the Institut Frangais d’ Archeologie Orientate, Cairo. 

ISBN 0-385-09567-8 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-13538 

Copyright © 1961 by Doubleday, 
a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 
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FIRST ANCHOR BOOKS EDITION: 1961 


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Table of Contents 


introduction, by Samuel Noah Kramer 7 

mythology in ancient egypt, by Rudolf Anthes 15 

MYTHOLOGY OF SUMER AND AKKAD, by Samuel 

Noah Kramer 93 

httote mythology, by Hans G. Guterbock 139 

canaanite mythology, by Cyrus H. Gordon 181 

mythology of ancient Greece, by Michael H. 

Jameson 219 

mythology of india, by W. Norman Brown 277 

mythology of ancient Iran, by M. J. Dresden 331 

myths of ancient china, by Derk Bodde 367 

Japanese mythology, by E. Dale Saunders 409 

MYTHOLOGY OF ANCIENT MEXICO, by Miguel 

Le6n-Portilla 443 

index 473 



Canaanite Mythology 
BY CYRUS H. GORDON 



Canaan is the Syro-Palestinian segment of the Fertile Crescent, 
between the Mediterranean and the desert. The people speak- 
ing the Canaanite dialects included the Hebrews and Phoe- 
nicians as well as a host of small kindred nations such as the 
Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites. Canaanite paganism 
is of particular importance because Biblical religion in some 
ways continued it, and in others reacted violently and con- 
sciously against it. Our Judeo-Christian tradition harks back, 
both through borrowing and reaction, to its Canaanite sub- 
stratum. 

The Bible is a mine of information on Canaanite mythol- 
ogy and religion. The more limited corpus of Phoenician in- 
scriptions provides some additional data. Much can be learned 
from numerous classical sources, such as Lucian’s Dea Syra. 
But since 1929, mythological texts have been emerging from 
the soil at Ugarit, providing us with the texts of the myths 
that circulated in the fourteenth century b.c . 1 Any basic 
study of Canaanite mythology must therefore rest primarily 
on the Ugaritic mythological tablets. In the following pages 
we shall remain close to our Ugaritic sources, making only 
brief incursions into other material when the resultant com- 
parisons are of special importance, or at least new. 

The Ugaritic myths explain nature so as to satisfy man’s 
craving for the answers to the universe, and to guarantee the 
regularity of the processes that result in fertility: fertility 
of mankind, animals, and plants. The content of the myths 



184 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


is conveyed through narrative full of action; the ancients were 
not interested in abstractions. Their thinking was concrete 
and their gods are portrayed as engaging in lively and sig- 
nificant action. For example, when Baal (the god of fertility 
and life) and Mot (the god of sterility and death) fight 
furiously, the action is not only interesting per se, but it is 
significant in that the outcome determines whether the land 
will be fertile or sterile for a prolonged period. 

Fertility is the main concern of the Ugaritic myths. The 
fertility that the ancients aspired to was within the framework 
of nature; they wanted each manifestation of fertility in its 
due season. They wanted nothing (not even blessings such 
as rain and crops) out of season. What they dreaded was the 
failure »f rain and crops in season. They desired the harvest of 
barley, wheat, tree fruits, olives, and grapes, each at its 
normal time. Fertility of the soil is an around-the-year affair 
without any necessary sterile season in Canaan. Only the 
component segments of Canaanite fertility (i.e., the succes- 
sive harvests) are seasonal. Nor is precipitation as a whole 
seasonal in a good year; for when the winter rain ends, the 
summer dew begins. Rain is seasonal, and so is the dew. 
But since, as the texts tell us, Baal grants both rain and dew, 
he functions as the water-giving god during all twelve months 
of the year . 2 Dew (as the ancients knew) is necessary during 
the summer for the ripening of agricultural products such as 
grapes (which are harvested down to the end of the rain- 
less summer). Accordingly, the great mass of scholarly writ- 
ing on Baal, who is supposed to die for the rainless summer 
and return to life for the rainy winter, misses the point of 
ancient Near East religion as well as of Near East climate. 
The ancients wanted the regularity of the normal year, with 
everything including the rain and dew in its proper season. 
They dreaded rainless winters, dewless summers, and locust 
years. A succession of dry or locust years was the terrible 
scourge that they wanted to avert at all costs. We shall see 
that the theme of the dying and reviving gods is not sea- 
sonal but “sabbatical,” having to do with seven-year cycles 
of fertility and sterility. 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 185 

The fertility cult was not limited to Baal and his female 
counterpart Anath. It is true that our longest texts con- 
cerning the fertility myths are Baalistic, but it is also a fact 
that text #52, which deals specifically with this problem, 
never so much as mentions Baal. In that text El is the prime 
mover. The prominence of Baal and Anath in the fertility 
myths is simply a corollary of their general prominence as 
young, active, and appealing gods. Younger gods tend to 
be more popular than their elders. Zeus displaced his father 
Cronus, who had previously displaced his own father Uranus. 
In Iran, Ahuramazda with the passing of time yielded the 
limelight to Mithra and Anahita. Accordingly, the quantitative 
prominence of Baal and Anath vis-h-vis El in the fertility 
myths, is simply an aspect of their quantitative prominence 
vis-a-vis the older El in general. 

Text #52 opens with the invocation: “Let me proclaim 
the Good and Gracious Gods,” the heptad of fertility deities 
who are to be sired by El for the purpose of establishing 
seven-year cycles of abundance. The seven motif, as we shall 
see, permeates the text. The tablet is divided into sections 
by horizontal lines drawn by the scribe. The text is in 
dramatic form, with stage directions, giving the locale and 
dramatis personae for various scenes. The origins of drama 
are religious, and text #52 is a landmark in the prehistory 
of classical drama. 

The prologue mentions the presence of the dignitaries of 
the community: civilian and military, ecclesiastical and lay: 
from the king and queen down. The note of abundance is 
sounded in line 6: 

Eat of every food 

Drink of the liquor of every wine! 

The second section tells of the compound personage “Death- 
and-Evil,” who holds two scepters: in one hand the staff of be- 
reavement, in the other the staff of widowhood. They hack 
him down like a vine in its field. Thus section #2 is, so to 
speak, the reverse side of the coin: in #1 (the prologue) 
abundance is hailed; in #2 privation is banished. 


186 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


Section #3 states that something is to be recited, or per- 
formed, seven times in keeping with the pervading heptad 
theme. 

Section #4 opens by stating the locale: 

The field is the field of the gods 
The field of Asher ah and the Girl. 

The Elysian Fields of Ugarit are thus defined as the field 
of Asherah (consort of El) and the Girl (apparently Anath). 
There the “Lads’' do something over a fire seven times. What 
they do is the subject of a considerable body of scholarly 
literature. The text states 

They co[ok a ki]d in milk 
A young goat in butter. 

“Milk” and “butter” are certain and parallel each other per- 
fectly. What is in brackets is broken away and restored. 
“Cook” is only half there, and most of “kid” is missing. More- 
over, “young goat ” is a hapax legomenon , with a conjectural 
translation that cannot be used to bolster the restoration of 
“kid.” The restored passage has been used to establish the 
Canaanite custom of seething a kid in its mother’s milk, 
against which the Biblical prohibition “Thou shalt not seethe 
a kid in its mother’s milk” 3 may have been directed. This 
prohibition has given rise to the rabbinical insistence that 
milk and meat must not be eaten together. Since the separa- 
tion of milk and meat is the cornerstone of Jewish ritual 
diet, the subject is of wide interest. The above restoration 
of the Ugaritic passage is possible, but it is so full of hypo- 
thetical factors that we will do well to move on without 
further ado. 

The final line of section #4 parallels what we have just 
quoted, but “fire,” written ’issatu (which is Semitic) the 
first time, is now paralleled by the Indo-European agni 
“fire,” cognate with Latin ignis. The Ugaritic form beginning 
with a- is, however, closer to Sanskrit Agni (familiar to 



CANAANTTE MYTHOLOGY 


187 

westerners as the Indian god of fire). This Indo-European 
word is a concrete reminder that Canaan was already in- 
fluenced by Indo-Europeans prior to the Amama Age. This is 
abundantly borne out by vocabulary, proper names, litera- 
ture, and institutions as well as the mythology. 

With section #5 we read that Rahmai “Lassie” ( = Anath) 
goes and girds (= grapples with) a goodly hero. Anath’s 
engaging in combat is in keeping with her bellicose char- 
acter of slayer of dragons, game, and men. 

Section #6 gives the scene as the Dwellings of the Gods, 
and specifies another sevenfold ritual. 

Section #7 is an expression of zeal for the divine names of 
some deities called “The Sons of Sharruma,” who apparently 
must be invoked to assure the success of the main section 
(#10), for which the first nine sections are the build-up. 

Section #8 is the invocation to the Good and Gracious 
Gods who will be bom and nurse at the breasts of Asherah. 
Dignitaries are on hand, bringing good sacrifices to the feast 

Section #9 brings the scene back to the Elysian Fields 

The field vf the gods 
The field of Asherah and Rahmai . . . 

and all is ready for the main scene. 

Section #10 opens at the seashore where two women are 
to be created over a fire. El is the aged god, and it is a ques- 
tion whether he will remain impotent, so that the women will 
function as his daughters and remain childless; or whether 
he will rise to virility for the occasion so that the women 
may serve as his wives and bear offspring. The myth, and the 
drama whereby it was re-enacted, are full of suspense; for 
El’s impotence would mean the onslaught of lean years, 
whereas his virility would herald the inauguration of a cycle 
of plentiful years. 

El fashions the two women and puts them in his house. 
His staff (symbolizing his penis) is lowered, but he shoots 
heavenward, bagging a bird, which is plucked, cleaned, and 
roasted over the fire. He then tries to copulate with the two 



188 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


women, whereupon the text brings us to a crisis of suspense, 
for 

If the women cry "0 husband, husband! 

Thy rod is lowered 

The staff of thy hand has fallen” 

While the bird roasts over the fire 
Yea broils over the coals, 

Then the women are the wives of El 
The wives of El and his forever. 

But if the women cry “O father, father 1 
Thy rod is lowered 

The staff of thy hand has fallen ” 

While the bird roasts over the fire 
Yea broils over the coals. 

The girls are the daughters of El 

The daughters of El and his forever. 

Marriage and adoption could be on more, or on less, 
permanent bases. A marriage contract could permit a short- 
term union, or call for a permanent and indissoluable mar- 
riage. The same variation could hold for daughtership ( called 
mdrtutu in Babylonian), a legal state into which a girl could 
be adopted. The permanence of whatever relationship emerges 
between El and the two women, is in keeping with the seri- 
ousness of the drama; on it depends the long-range fertility 
of the land. What the women say will determine the future, 
whether for good or for evil. To the relief and joy of the 
populace, the women exclaim: 

“O husband, husband 7 
Thy rod is lowered 

The staff of thy hand has fallen ” 

While the bird roasts over the fire 
Yea broils over the coals. 

So the two women are the wives of El 
El’s wives and his forever. 

This guarantees a favorable outcome but not without further 
suspense, for, as we shall now note, the first children to be 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 189 

born of the union are not the Heptad but a pair of celestial 
deities: 

He bends, their lips he kisses 
Lo their lips are sweet, sweet as pomegranates. 
From kissing, there is conception 
From embracing, impregnation . 

They go into labor and bear Dawn and Dusk. 

Whatever importance Dawn and Dusk may have in the 
fertility cult , 4 they are not the primary gods of fertility, whose 
functioning is the goal of the text. 

The birth of children was announced by messenger to the 
fathers, who left obstetrics in the feminine hands of the mid- 
wives and parturient women. 

Word was brought to El: 

“ El’s wives have borne" 

But El knows the results without having to be told, for he 
first asks and then answers his own rhetorical question: 

“ What have they borne? 

My children. Dawn and Dusk .** 

Thereafter he joins his wives in conjugal love again. Then he 
returns to his own abode till the women go into labor and 
bear him another brood. Word is brought to him, and this 
time the babes are the Good and Gracious Gods of fertility 
who suckle the Lady’s breasts thereby imbibing the nourish- 
ment that provides them with the power for their important 
role. The newborn gods are voracious giants, with 

A lip to earth, 

A lip to heaven 

So that there enter their mouth 
The fowl of heaven 
And fish of the sea. 

El then addresses his seven sons and directs them to the 
wilderness: 



190 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


“ There ye shall sojourn among the stones and trees 
Seven full years 

E’en eight circling (years) 

Till ye Good Gods walk the field 
E’en tread the corners of the wilderness .” 

Long years of retirement to the wilds among the stones and 
trees is typical of Indie epic, where beloved heroes do this 
(often for expiation), pending a happy return to civilization. 
The seven (“e’en eight” 5 ) years of sojourn in the wilderness 
mean that a bad sabbatical cycle has taken place and, by the 
process of alternation, a good sabbatical cycle is about to 
begin. It therefore is likely that text #52 is connected with 
a ritual to end a succession of lean years and inaugurate a 
cycle of fat years. 

We now approach the happy ending. The seven lean years 
are over and the Good Gods are ready to enter the Sown, 
where the Guardian who is to let them in, is stationed. 

They met the Guardian of the Sown 
And shouted to the Guardian of the Sown: 

“O Guardian, Guardian, open!” 

And he opened an aperture for them so that they entered. 

They then ask for the entertainment due to strangers: 

“If there is bread , give that we may eat. 

If there is wine, give that we may drink” 

The Guardian answered that there were both food and drink, 
and the text ends on the affirmation of plenty. 

Text #52 thus reflects a religious ritual for initiating a 
seven-year period of plenty. The form is dramatic and was 
doubtless acted out. Our text is the libretto with stage direc- 
tions. The authority that is invoked to produce the results 
is a myth: the story of how El procreated the Heptad who 
preside over the plenteous sabbatical cycle, and how they 
auspiciously entered the arable terrain bringing their bless- 
ings to it. The myth is the precedent to be invoked for re- 
establishing in time the primeval event. We thus have the 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


191 


myth, the verbal utterance and the act: the complete formula 
for agricultural prosperity (without any trace of the Baal 
cult). 

Quantitatively the Baal and Anath texts form the bulk of 
the fertility myths from Ugarit, in keeping with the popu- 
larity of those younger gods in the religion of Canaan. About 
a dozen tablets deal with Baal and Anath myths, but there is 
no proof that they were intended to constitute a single com- 
position. When we group them as parts of “The Baal and 
Anath Cycle” we do so as a matter of practical expedience. 
We must discuss them in some order, and we try to arrange 
them in the most meaningful sequence. And yet no sequence 
can claim to be the one and only sequence that a Ugaritic 
priest would have prescribed. 

One of the main themes in the mythology is kingship among 
the gods. Just as Zeus wrested the kingship of the gods from 
Cronus, and the latter from Uranus, Baal wrested the king- 
ship from the sea-god Yamm. Text #137 tells how the pan- 
theon was assembled under the presidency of El, when Yamm 
sent his messengers with the insolent request that Baal be 
surrendered to him in bondage: 

So says Yamm your lord 
Your master, Judge River: 

“O gods, give up him whom ye harbor 
Him whom the multitudes harbor; 

Give up Baal and his partisans 

Dagons Son, that I may inherit his gold” 

The gods were seated for banqueting, when Baal spied the 
messengers coming. The gods, anticipating the unpleasant 
message, bent their heads in sadness; but Baal, showing the 
courage befitting the king-to-be, took his stand by EL 

As soon as the gods saw them 
Yea saw the messengers of Yamm 
The emissaries of Judge River, 

The gods lowered their heads on top of their knees 
E'en on the thrones of their lordships. 



192 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


Baal rebuked them,: 

“ Why have ye lowered, O gods. 

Your heads on top of your knees 

E’en on the thrones of your lordships? 

Let the gods twain read the tablets 
E’en the messengers of Yamm 
The emissaries of Judge River: 

Lift, O gods, your heads 
From on top of your knees 

From the thrones of your lordships 
And I shall answer Yamm’s messengers 
The emissaries of Judge River .” 

Baal’s leadership commands the respect of the gods, who 
react by obeying him: 

The gods lift their heads 
From on top of their knees 
From the thrones of their lordships. 

The messengers twain arrive and fail to pay obeisance to 
the head of the pantheon: 

At the feet of El they do not fall 
Nor prostrate themselves in the gathered assemblage. 

Baal is already meditating violent revenge in his heart. He 
has a sharpened sword with flashing blade. Messengers (as 
in the Homeric world) had a kind of diplomatic immunity, 
so that no matter how great the provocation, Baal had no 
right to vent the violence of his feelings on them. The scene 
we are about to witness is a forerunner of an episode in the 
Iliad (1:188-222), where Achilles is about to slay Agamem- 
non because of Agamemnon’s insolent demands, but two god- 
desses restrain him. Just as Achilles yields for the time 
being, so too does Baal. In fact El abjectly surrenders him: 

El, Bull of his father, replies: 

"Baal is thy slave, O Yamm, 

Baal is thy slave forever 
Dagons Son, thy bondsman. 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


193 


He will bring thy tribute like the gods 
Yea bring thine offerings like the sons of holiness” 

Thus betrayed by the cowardice of the venerable but senile 
Father of the Gods, Baal flies into a rage and 

[Seizjes [ a knife] in his hand 
A butcher knife in his right 
To slay the messengers 


whereupon 

[Ana]th grabs [his right hand] 

Yea Astarte grabs his left 

and tell him that he must not slay the emissaries of Yamm. 
The text breaks off after a few fragmentary- lines. It is pos- 
sible that the goddesses told Baal to bide his time and things 
would turn out in bis favor, even as Hera and Athena advised 
Achilles, who, in obedience to them, refrained from slaying 
Agamemnon. 

Baal’s opportunity came. Text #68 tells how he van- 
quished Yamm and from him seized the kingship. The divine 
craftsman, Kothar-and-Hasis, fashioned two dubs and gave 
them to Baal for conquering Yamm. The need for two dubs 
is a corollary of the ancient psychology that required climactic 
action: the first club would strike a preliminary blow; the 
second would deal the final and crushing blow. Kothar-and- 
Hasis predicts to Baal the victorious outcome of the battle: 

“Am 1 not telling thee, O Prince Baal, 

Yea declaring, O Rider of Clouds? 
ho, thine enemies, O Baal 
Lo thine enemies shalt thou smite 
Lo thou shalt destroy thy foesl 
Thou shalt take thine eternal kingship 
Thine everlasting sovereigntyr 

Then the divine craftsman gives the clubs their appropriate 
names: 



194 CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 

Kothar brings down two clubs and proclaims their names: 
* Thy name is Driver. 

Driver, drive Yamm 
Drive Yamm from his throne 

River from the seat of his sovereignty! 

Thou shalt swoop from the hand of Baal 
Like a falcon from his fingers ! 

Strike the shoulders of Prince Sea 
Between the hands of Judge River! n 

Note that the imagery is in terms of falconry. The clubs will 
fly from the hand of Baal and strike his enemy Yamm, just as 
a falcon swoops from the hunter's hand to catch the prey. 
The expression “between the hands" means “on die back” in 
Hebrew as well as in Ugaritic. The “creative word " 6 of 
Kothar-and-Hasis is immediately translated into action: 

The club swoops from the hand of Baal 
Like a falcon from his fingers 
It strikes the shoulders of Prince Yamm 
Between the hands of Judge River. 

But Yamm is not felled by die blow and still remains in the 
fray. So Kothar-and-Hasis names the next club “Expeller” and 
commands it to fly from the hand of Baal and deal Yamm 
the knockout blow on the head: 

So it swoops from the hand of Baal 
Like a falcon from his fingers. 

It strikes the head of Prince Yamm 
Between the eyes of Judge River. 

Sea sprawls and falls to earth 

Baal thus conquered Yamm and wrested from him the kingship 
of the gods. 

Victory, however, often leaves a host of new problems in 
its wake for the victor. On this occasion, immediately after 
the victory, Astarte rebukes Baal for slaying Yamm. Baal is 
now king, but his future is fraught with vicissitudes as the 
mythology before us will bring out 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


195 


Text #75 tells of Baal's encounter with ravenous monsters 
in the wilderness. The weird creatures (part bovine, part 
anthropomorphic) are reminiscent of the Aegean Minotaur on 
the one hand and of the Mesopotamian Bull of Heaven on the 
other: 

On them, are horns like hulls 
And humps like buffaloes 
And on them is the face of Bad. 

The text is fragmentary with many of the line-ends missing. 
That the sabbatical cycle of fertility is an underlying motif 
is, however, clear from passages like the following: 

Seven years the god is full - - - 
Even eight circling years , till 

Then Baal perished and the years of sterility came on, for 
we read: 


Thus Baal fell like a butt 

Yea Hadd collapsed - - - . 

Baal had many ups and downs, slain for many a cycle of 
sterility and privation, and risen for many a cycle of fertility 
and plenty. The multiplicity of his ups and downs is required 
by nature itself in the Near East. Canaan is characterized by a 
succession of seasons that normally produce a fertile year. 
With some luck a number of such fertile years follow one 
after the other to form a fertile cycle. But unfortunately, rain 
does not always materialize in the rainy season; nor is there 
always sufficient dew in the summer. Moreover, locusts may 
plague the land and devour the crops. A series of bad years 
is the major natural catastrophe against which the fertility 
cult was directed. The meteorological history of Canaan, 
where Baal was pitted against Mot in the minds of the people, 
required the concept that the conflict between the two gods 
took place repeatedly. In the frame of reference of Canaanite 
religious psychology, each of the two gods was both van- 
quished and triumphant many a time in the course of any 
century. 



CANAAN! TE MYTHOLOGY 


190 

One of the larger subdivisions of “The Baal and Anath 
Cycle” is called die “Anath” text, which opens with a banquet 
scene of the gods. Baal is honored on the occasion with roasted 
meat cut with a keen blade from the breast of a fading. Also 

A cup is placed in his hand 
An amphora in both his hands. 

Asherah, consort of El and mother of “the seventy gods,” 
graces the occasion. Wine flows in profusion: 

They take a thousand pitchers of wine 
Ten thousand they mix of its mixture. 

Like the Greeks in Homer, the Canaanites often cut their 
wine, and enhanced the pleasures of roast meat and mixed 
wine with music and song: 

(A lad) began to sing and chant 
With cymbals, a goodly song 
The lad good of voice chanted. 

Thereafter 

Baal went up into the heights of Saphon 
Baal viewed his girls 
He eyed Pidrai, Girl of Light , 

Also Tallai, Girl of Bain , 


The daughters of Baal, as we know from several Ugaritic 
passages, are three in number: Pidrai, Tallai, and Arsai. They 
are appropriately nature goddesses: Pidrai symbolizing light; 
Tallai, dew and rain; Arsai, earth. Some scholars insist that 
they are not the daughters but the consorts of BaaL The texts 
call them Baal's bandt-, which means primarily “daughters” 
and secondarily “girls.” Since the triad of Baal's daughters is 
reflected in the triad of Allah’s daughters according to the 
pre-Islamic Arabs, 1 there is some outside confirmation that 
the three goddesses are daughters of Baal. This does not 
rule out their serving as his consorts as well, because the 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


197 


ambivalence of relationships in an ancient pantheon may 
be remote indeed from the familiar patterns of human society. 

Col. II begins with a reference to the scent of game, around 
the double doors of Anath ’s house. This is appropriate be- 
cause she is a goddess of the hunt and of battle. Suddenly 
troops confront her: 

And lo Anath fights violently 
She slays the sons of the two cities 

She fights the people of the seashore 
Annihilates mankind of the sunrise. 

The reference to the people of the west (seashore) and east 
(sunrise) is a common idiom called a “merism” or combina- 
tion of antonyms to indicate totality (like our English "they 
came great and small,” which means “everybody came”). 
Accordingly, Anath is said to be slaying “everyone.” The 
scene we are about to witness is a parallel to the Egyptian 
(rather than Mesopotamian) story of the near-destruction of 
mankind. The Mesopotamians (followed by the Hebrews) 
conceived of the near-destruction of mankind at the hands 
of the god(s) in terms of a deluge. But the Egyptians had a 
myth about a brutal goddess, Sekhmet, who went berserk 
and would have exterminated the human race had she not 
been stopped before it was too late. Ugaritic mythology, 
confronting us with a variant of this tradition, tells of how 
the violent Anath slew men and exulted as their cut-off heads 
and hands flew through the air: 

Under her (flew) heads like vultures 
Over her (flew) hands like locusts. 

Again, note the merism; “under” and “over” indicate “every- 
where” about her. The ancient Near Easterners used to cut 
off heads and hands to count, and boast of, their victims slain 
in battle. Heads and hands are therefore symbols of victory, 
figuring in the art as well as texts of the Near East Our 
present text is paralleled by Syrian seal cylinders of the 
Amama Age, showing the victorious goddess with heads and 
hands filling the atmosphere. 



198 CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 

Sekhmet of Egypt was stopped by flooding the area with 
beer dyed blood-red with ocher. The bloodthirsty Sekhmet, 
mistaking the reddened beer for blood, drank her fill and was 
put to sleep by die beer. Anath, somewhat similarly, is de- 
picted as wading in the blood of her human victims: 

She plunges knee-deep in the blood of heroes 
Neck-high in the gore of troops. 

She battles on with club and bow until she reaches her 
palace. At this point we are confronted with a typical feature 
of the literature. All the fighting so far is merely the first 
round. Another scene, paralleling this one, will come later 
and tell of the climax (i.e., final victory) . So our text states 
that on this first round "she was not sated.” She thereupon 
renews the battle, adding new tactics: 

She fights violently 
Battles the sons of the two cities 
She hurls chairs at the soldiers t 
Hurling tables at the armies 
Footstools at the troops. 

Brawl tactics, specifically the throwing of furniture, are 
famous from Odysseus' battle against the suitors in his halls 
at Ithaca. In Psalm 23:5, "Thou preparest a table before me 
in the presence of mine enemies” may mean that Cod pro- 
vides His own with ammunition. 

With her tactics in the second round, Anath scores die 
victory and is overjoyed at the massacre she has wrought: 

Much she fights , and looks ; 

Slays > and views. 

Anath swells her liver with laughter 
Her heart is filled with joy 

For in the hand of Anath is victory. 

For she plunged knee-deep in the blood of soldiers 
Neck-high in the gore of troops. 

Until she is sated 

She fights in the house 
Battles between the tables . 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


199 

The parallel with the Odyssey is many-sided Anath is de- 
picted returning from the hunt, trying to enter her own 
palace, which is occupied by intruders. Her first battle, out of 
doors, does not end with her in full possession of her premises. 
But the second battle, concluded indoors, leads to her re- 
possessing her palace. Both the tactics of furniture throwing, 
and the massacre of the intruders to repossess one's own 
palace, jibe with Odysseus’ victory in his halls. After her vic- 
tory Anath first 

Washes her hands in the blood of soldiers 
Her fingers in the gore of troops. 

But the blessings of peace follow the ravages of war: 

She draws water and washes: 

Dew of heaven 
Fat of earth 

Rain of the Rider of Clouds . 

All of the myths we are discussing lead up to the theme of 
nature functioning with regularity and benevolence to bless 
mankind with fertility. The formula “dew of heaven and fat 
of earth” recurs in the blessings of Isaac. “Rider of Clouds” 
refers to Baal in Ugaritic, but to Yahwe in Psalm 68:5. 

The acts of Anath bring on the corresponding functions of 
nature: 

Dew that the heavens pour 
Rain that the stars pour. 

The text goes on to tell of the abundance of game too. 

Baal next dispatches his messengers to Anath, telling her 
to lay aside warfare and establish peace, promising her to 
reveal the secret of nature if she will come to his mountain 
abode: 

The message of Aliyan Baal 
The word of Aliy the Mighty: 

u 

(Bury) enmity in the earth of battles 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


200 

Put mandrakes in the dust 

Pour ( a ) peace ( offering ) into the midst of the earth, 
Conciliation into the midst of the fields 


To me let thy feet race 
To me let thy legs hasten, 

For I have a word to tell thee 
An utterance, to declare unto thee : 

The word of the tree and the whisper of the stone 
The sound of the heavens to the earth 
Of the Deeps to the stars. 

1 understand lightning which the heavens do not know 
The word which men do not know 
Nor the multitudes of the earth understand. 

Come and I shad reveal it 
In the midst of the mountain of me, God of Saphon 
In the sanctuary, in the mountain of mine inheritance 
In the Good Place, on the HiU of Power.** 

When Anath beholds die messengers coming she is stricken 
by misgivings that some ill may have befallen Baal Before 
they , have time to deliver their joyous message Anath 

Lifts her voice and shouts: 

“Why have Gupan and Ugar come? 

What foe has risen against Bad 
Or enemy against the Rider of Clouds?** 

Anath then recounts her past victories over Baal’s enemies. 
Those battles symbolize the triumph of the forces of good (or 
life) over the forces of evil (or death). 

" Have I not crushed Y amm, ETs Darling, 

Nor annihilated the great god River ? 

Have I not muzzled the dragon 
Nor crushed the crooked serpent 
Mighty monster of the seven heads? 

I have crushed Mot, darling of the earth gods 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


201 


I have destroyed the house of El-Zebub 
l have battled and gained possession of the gold of those 
who (once) drove Baal from the heights of 
Saphon ----.” 

The sea-gods figure prominently among the foes of Baal, lord 
of earth and fertility. The dragon (tannin) is well known 
from Scripture. The crooked serpent is none other than 
Leviathan, who is actually named as such in other Ugaritic 
texts that we shall presently examine. His seven heads give 
the number of the heads that God crushed according to 
Psalm 74:14 (“Thou hast crushed the heads of Leviathan”) . 
In Revelation 12:3 ff. the seven-headed monster of evil that 
emerges from the sea is a reflex of the old Leviathan myth 
and symbolized the evil to be vanquished by God. Later still, 
in the Aramaic incantation bowls (from about a.d. 500 in 
Babylonia), magicians invoked the precedent of God’s con- 
quest of Leviathan, to dispel the forces of evil from the homes 
of their clients. 9 All this has a bearing cm New Testament and 
various forms of Jewish dualism (N.B. the Qumran Scrolls 0 ), 
whereby the forces of good (or light or God) are pitted 
against the forces of evil (or darkness or Satan). This is 
frequently attributed to borrowing from Zoroastrianism. But, 
as we now see, the myth of the dualistic battle was deeply 
entrenched in Canaan from pre-Hebraic times. The myth 
of the conflict was absorbed by the Hebrews along with the 
language, literature, and lore of Canaan from the very start of 
Hebrew history in Canaan. We know the parallel (and re- 
lated) myth of die Greeks, about the seven- (or nine-) headed 
Hydra slain by Heracles. The earliest attestation of the myth 
is a seal cylinder from Mesopotamia of die third millennium 
b.c. (Dynasty of Akkad) showing heroes vanquishing the 
seven-headed monster. 10 Accordingly, all the available evi- 
dence points to the spread of this dualistic myth from the 
Semitic to the Iranian sphere, not vice versa. That Ir anian 
back-influence may have heightened the already existing 
dualistic tendencies in the Semitic world is quite likely, start- 
ing with the Achaemenian Conquest and continuing into 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


202 

Roman times; but that is very different from attributing the 
origin of Christian dualistic tendencies to non- Jewish sources. 

Mot (“Death”) is the most prominent adversary of Baal. 
He appears often enough in Hebrew poetry, and his cult is 
reflected in the early Hebrew name Az-mawet 11 (“Mot-Is- 
Strong”). Appeasing the forces of evil, as well as adoring the 
forces of good, is familiar in many religions (cf. the cults of 
the lethal Nergal in Mesopotamia, and of the evil Seth in 
Egypt). 

El-Zebub, as we have noted above, is already an evil deity. 
He reverberates as Baal-Zebub , 12 the prince of the demons 
in the New Testament . 18 

The gold guarded by dragons on mountains is a common 
motif in Indo-European epic. 

Anath ends her address to Gupan and Ugar by conclud- 
ing her tale of conquests over Baal’s foes, who had once 

Driven him, from the seat of his kingship 
From the dais , from the throne of his sovereignty , . • 

and she asks 

“What enemy has arisen against Baal 

Or foe against the Rider of Clouds P” 

The messengers allay her fears: 

“No enemy has arisen against Baal 
Nor foe against the Rider of Clouds ." 

Then they deliver the message and invitation, repeating the 
very words put into their mouths by Baal, as quoted above. 

The secret that Baal offers to reveal to Anath is the word 
of nature. The passage describing it is one of the finest in 
Ugaritic, anticipating the Scriptural formulation of the same 
idea: “The heavens declare the glory of God, yea the 
firmament tells of His handiwork. Day utters word to day; and 
night imparts knowledge to night. There is neither utterance 
nor words whose sound is unheard. Throughout all the land 
their sound goes forth; at the end of the world are their 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


203 

words” (Psalm 19:2-5). In Canaan, whether at Ugarit or in 
Israel, the poets heard the voice of nature; heavens and 
earth talked to them, revealing the glorious mystery of the 
god(s) and creation. For those ancients, nature was animate; 
with the segments thereof conversing in words that the 
initiated could understand. 

Anath accepts the invitation, and instead of wasting time 
sending further messages back and forth, she decides to race 
ahead of Gupan and Ugar. 

Then she sets face toward Baal 
On the heights of Saphon 
By the thousand acres 
Yea myriad hectares. 

This formula expresses the speed at which gods travel. 
All too prosaically, it could be rendered “by leaps and 
bounds.” 

Baal entertains Anath, upon her arrival, with roasted ox 
and fading. She draws water and washes with 

Dew of heaven, fat of earth 
Dew that the heavens pour 
Bain that the stars pour . . . 

and game abounds because of her felicity; for she is the 
Lady of fertility and of the hunt. 

Baal’s invitation is not without ulterior motive. In exchange 
for his secret he wants Anath to intercede on his behalf to 
get a palace. Diplomacy in divine circles is as devious as 
among men. Baal’s tactics were to get Anath to appeal to 
Asherah to ask El, the head of the pantheon, to authorize 
Kothar-and-Hasis to construct a palace for Baal. Baal was 
the only important god without a palace of his own. His 
newly won kingship required his possessing one. His plea 
included the statement that just about all the gods had 
palaces: 

“ There is the dwelling of El, the shelter of his sons 
The dwelling of Lady Asherah of the Sea 



204 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


The dwelling of Pidrai , Girl of Light, 

The shelter of Tallai, Girl of Rain , 

The dwelling of Arsai, Girl of Y°bdr 
The dwelling of the famed brides.” 

Anath assures Baal that she will, if necessary, compel El to 
grant the request, by dire threats of violence. 

“And the Virgin Anath declared: 

‘The Bull, God of my father, will yield 
He will yield for my sake and his own 
For I shall trample him like a sheep on the ground 
Make his gray hair flow with blood 
The gray of his beard with gore 
Unless he grants Baal a house like the gods 
Yea a court like the sons of Asherahr ” 

Anath then departs for the abode of El where the two cosmic 
rivers, the sources of the Two Deeps, have their origin. There 
she threatens her aged sire with physical violence. El, afraid of 
his brutal daughter, has hidden in the innermost chamber: 
the eighth chamber within a chamber. 

El answers from seven chambers 
Out of eight compartments: 

* 1 know thee to be impetuous, O my daughter , 

For there is no restraint among goddesses. 

What dost thou desire, O Virgin Anath P” 

Now that El has been cowed into granting whatever she 
wants, Anath can afford to be filial and give up her crude 
tactics: 


And the Virgin Anath replied: 

“Thy word, O El, is wise 
Thy wisdom, unto eternity 
Lucky life is thy word . 

Our king is Aliyan Baal 

Our judge, above whom there is none ” 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


205 


Anath’s appeal was carefully planned. Asherah and her brood 
were already there to add their voices to Anath’s in getting 
El’s authorization for building Baal’s palace: 

There shout Asherah and her sons 
The Goddess and the hand of her kin: 

"Bad has no house like the gods 
Nor a court like the sons of Asherah" 

Vociferously they remind El that practically every god ex- 
cept Baal, who is now king, has a palace. El has no choice 
but to authorize the construction. 

Asherah’s messengers. Holy and Blessed, are dispatched 
to Caphtor, where Kothar-and-Hasis has his atelier. They are 
to convey to the divine craftsman El’s orders to erect the 
palace. 

Text #51 takes up the story. Like Hephaistus busy at his 
forge when Thetis comes to request armor for Achilles, so 
too Kothar-and-Hasis is described at work making fine 
objects in his atelier: 

The skilled one went up to his bellows. 

In the hands of Hasis were the tongs. 

He pours silver 
Casts gold 

He pours silver by the thousand ( shekels ) 

Gold he pours by the myriad. 

The text then enumerates the handsome creations he is mak- 
ing: a table, a footstool, shoes, a bowl, etc. — all fit for the 
gods. 

The construction of Baal’s mythical house is a forerunner 
of the erection of Yahwe’s historical First Temple in Jeru- 
salem. The two accounts are organically related because of 
common background and attitudes. In both cases the god’s 
interests had grown to a point where he could not condignly 
go on any more without a house. The Bible tells that it was 
no longer fitting that Israel’s king should dwell in a cedar 
palace while God still lived in a tent (The Tabernacle). 
Times had changed; Israel had arrived; with the added 



200 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


stature of Israel among the nations, the cultic requirements 
for Israel's God rose. We have seen how Baal's rise to king- 
ship required the building of a palace for him. The Biblical 
and Ugaritic accounts of the building materials (cedars of 
Lebanon covered with metal) also link the mythical and 
historic houses of Baal and Yahwe, respectively. 

The definitive authorization is sent through Anath to Baal 
with instructions to invite certain creatures (their identity 
is not yet clear, for we cannot translate their names) where- 
upon nature itself will fetch the building materials for him. 
Anath, overjoyed, darts through space to the heights of 
Saphon to tell the good news to Baal: 

“Be informed, O Baal! 

I bring thy tidings . 

A house will be built for thee like thy brethren 
Even a court, like thy kin , 

Invite - - - - into thine house 

in the midst of thy palace 

So that the mountains will bring thee much silver 
The hills, the choicest of gold 
And build a house of silver and gold 
A house of lapis gems .** 

The combination of silver, gold, and lapis lazuli is familiar 
from Egyptian and Sumerian mythological texts, too. It is a 
reflection of actual art that gloried in the color scheme 
produced by the three materials. 

Baal now summoned the divine builder. 

After Kothar-and-Hasis arrived 
He set an ox before him 
A fatllng in the midst of his presence . 

A throne was set so that he might sit 
At the right hand of Aliyan Baal 
Until he had eaten and drunk. 

After wining and dining the guest Baal got down to business 
and instructed Kothar-and-Hasis to build the palace promptly 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


207 


“in the midst of the heights of Saphon. 

The house shall comprise a thousand acres 
The palace , ten thousand hectares ” 

But a major disagreement arose between Baal and Kothar- 
and-Hasis as to whether the palace should have a window. 
A new type of building was coming into vogue: “the window 
house” (called bit-hi(l)ldni in Babylonian). The divine archi- 
tect recommended this new type of building with a window; 
Baal, however, stubbornly objected to windows. Finally the 
architect prevailed, with the consequence that Baal’s ad- 
versary Mot entered Baal’s palace through the window. Mot’s 
(i.e., Death’s) entrance through windows is a theme reflected 
in Jeremiah 9:20. The dialogue between Baal and Kothar 
follows: 

And Kothar-and-Hasis declared: 

“Hear, O Aliyan Baal, 

Perceive, O Rider of Cloudsl 
Shall I not put a window in the house 
A casement in the midst of the palace P” 

And Aliyan Baal replied: 

“Do not put a window in the house 
A casement in the midst of the palacer 
And Kothar-and-Hasis replied: 

“Thou wilt come around, Baal, to my word.” 

Kothar then repeated his advice, but Baal would not be 
budged and added that he had three girls (Pidrai, Tallai, 
and Arsai), whom he presumably did not want to expose 
to any outsider through windows. 

From the majestic trees of Lebanon, and the choicest 
cedars of Antilebanon, the palace was erected. Then a mighty 
conflagration (which we are to compare with the "fire of 
Hephaistus”) is applied to the house for a week, at the end 
of which the palace emerged resplendent with gold and 
silver. This may reflect a process of melting and applying 
precious metal to sheath the wood and bricks, giving the 
illusion of a house built of solid gold and silver. When the 
process was completed 



208 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


Aliyan Baal rejoiced: 
u l have built my house of silver 
Yea made my palace of gold " 

Thereupon Baal made a great feast to commemorate the 
event, slaughtering bulls, sheep, and goats, fatlings and 
yearling calves to regale his guests. 

He invited his brethren into his house 
His kin into his palace. 

He invited the seventy sons of Asherah. 

He also invited specialized deities: personified animals and 
objects, some of which are paralleled in other literatures of 
the East Mediterranean. Homer tells of animated tripods that 
come to, and go from, the banquets of the gods, automati- 
cally. This parallels the deified pithoi in the following passage. 
In Hittite rituals, thrones are personified quite as in the 
following: 

(Baal) caused the ram gods to drink wine; 

Caused the ewe goddesses to drink wine. 

He caused the bull gods to drink wine ; 

Caused the cow goddesses to drink wine. 

He caused the chair gods to drink wine ; 

Caused the throne goddesses to drink wine. 

He caused the pithos gods to drink wine; 

Caused the jar goddesses to drink tcine. 

Note how each category comes in parallel pairs, male and 
female, giving poetic form to what would otherwise be a 
prosaic list. The text adds that the wining and dining 
continued 

TUI the gods had eaten and drunk 
And the twain who suck the breast had quaffed. 

The twain are the two deified kings. As in Homer, the kings 
at Ugarit were accorded divine status. Note that dyarchy 
existed at Ugarit, somewhat as at Sparta. The institution at 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


209 


both sites would appear to be the legacy of a common Aegean 
heritage. On a carved panel on the royal bedstead from 
Ugarit, two princes or kings are depicted sucking the breasts 
of a goddess, thereby imbibing the milk that imparts divinity 
to them. 14 The kings of Ugarit therefore have a place in the 
pantheon. It is part and parcel of the epic that kings should 
move in divine as well as in human circles; cf. Homer, die 
Gilgamesh Epic, and the Patriarchal Narratives in Genesis. 

After the banquet, Baal sallied forth and captured ninety 
dties. His conquests inspired him with so much confidence 
that he felt secure enough to have a window installed in his 
house. 

And Aliyan Baal declared: 

U VTL install (it), Kothar son of Yamm, 

Yea Kothar, son of the Assemblage. 

Let a window be opened in the house 
A casement in the midst of the palace 

Thus Baal did come around to following Kothar’ s advice. 

Kothar-and-H asis laughed. 

He lifted his voice and shouted: 

“ Did l not tell thee, O Aliyan Bacd, 

Thou wouldst come around, O Bad, to my word P” 
He opens a window in the house 
A casement in the midst of the pdace . 

All this is connected with the functioning of Baal as the 
storm-god, because a rain- and thunderstorm ensue. Perhaps 
it is somehow connected with the “windows” of heaven men- 
tioned in Genesis 7:11 as the source of rain. 

At this seemingly happy juncture, trouble looms ominously 
for Baal. His foes seize the forest and mountainsides, and his 
archenemy Mot resolves on wresting the kingship for him- 
self, saying 

“I alone am he who will rule over the gods 
Even command gods and men 
Dominate the multitudes of the earths 



210 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


Baal is obliged to communicate with Mot in the underworld, 
but warns his messengers, Gupan and Ugar, to beware of 
Mot lest he swallow them alive: 

“Do not draw near to the god Mot 
Lest he make you like a lamb in his mouth 
Yea like a kid in his gullet” 

The negotiations end in the confrontation of Baal and Mot 
in the underworld as we read in text #67. Mot’s summoning 
of Baal is connected with Baal’s conquest of the seven- 
headed Leviathan. Perhaps Mot felt sympathy for the forces 
of evil, since he was after all destructive like them. On being 
summoned, Baal is terrified of Mot, and all nature becomes, 
as a result, unproductive. 

Aliyan Baal feared him 

The Rider of Clouds dreaded him. 

Word went back to the god Mot, 

Was relayed to the Hero, El’s beloved: 

“ The message of Aliyan Baal 

The reply of the Mighty Warrior: 

‘Hail, O god Mot ! 

1 am thy slave, e’en thine forever * ” 

The two ( messenger ) gods departed 
Nor did they sit . 

Then they set face toward the god Mot 
In the midst of his city Hamrai. 

Lo the throne on which he sits 
Is the land of his inheritance. 

The twain lift their voices and shout: 

“ The message of Aliyan Baal 

The reply of the Mighty Warrior: 

'Hail, O deity Motl 
I am thy slave, e’en thine forever " 

The deity Mot rejoiced. 

The capitulation of Baal is complete, since he becomes by 
his own declaration the slave of Mot in perpetuity. In the Old 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


211 

Testament there are two kinds of slaves: the native (Hebrew) 
slave who has the right to go free in the seventh (or sab- 
batical) year; and the eternal slave, who never becomes free 
of his master. 

Baal’s capitulation meant his descent to Mot and to death. 
But before doing so, Baal copulated with a heifer who bore 
him a tauromorphic son. Then we find Baal fallen dead on 
the earth. When a pair of messengers bear the sad tidings 
to the head of the pantheon (El, or Latpan) : 

Thereupon Latpan god of mercy 
Goes down from his throne 
Sits on the footstool 
And from the footstool sits on the earth . 

He pours the ashes of mourning on his head 
Yea the dust of scattering on his pate. 

El also dons a special garb for mourning and lacerates him- 
self, wandering in grief through mountains and forest. Anath 
too wanders in grief until she comes upon die corpse of Baal 
lying on the earth. With the help of the sun-goddess, Shapsh, 
Anath removes the corpse to the heights of Saphon for burial 
with numerous sacrifices in his honor. 

Anath then proceeds to the abode of ELI and Asherah, and 
(in text #49) 

She raises her voice and shouts: 

“ Let Asherah and her sons rejoice 
Ken the goddess and the band of her kin 
For AUyan Baal is dead 
The Prince , Lord of Earth, has perished ." 

It will be noted that this mythology is cosmic, not local. Baal 
is the Lord of the entire Earth, not the Baal of Ugarit, Byblos, 
Tyre, or Sidon. El and Asherah are the chief god and god- 
dess of the whole pantheon. Baal and Anath are the universal 
gods of fertility. And so forth. 

The news that Baal is dead meant that another god would 
have to be appointed king in his stead. El and Asherah finally 



212 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


decide on their son Athtar the Terrible as long to replace 
Baal: 


Thereupon Athtar the Terrible 
Goes up into the heights of Saphon 
Yea sits on the throne of Aliyan Bad. 

His feet do not reach the footstool 
His head does not reach its top . 

So Athtar the Terrible says: 

" 1 cannot be king in the heights of Saphon 
Athtar the Terrible goes down 
Goes down from the throne of Aliyan Baal 
To be king over all the grand earth. 

Though Athtar became king of the earth, he was unequal 
to the magnitude of Baal's kingship in Saphon, as the in- 
adequacy of his physical stature indicated. 

Meanwhile Anath nursed her desire for vengeance on 
Baal’s slayer. Eventually she asks Mot for her brother Baal 
and Mot admits his guilt, whereupon 

She seizes the god Mot 
With a sword she cleaves him 
With a fan she winnows him 
With fire she bums him 

In the millstones she grinds him 
In the field she plants him. 

Mot is thus destroyed, but his being planted in the ground 
is somehow connected with the future growth of the soil. 
Perhaps the fact that he had swallowed Baal explains why 
Mot’s body can function as seed giving rise to life. 

The planting of Mot is the prelude to the resurrection of 
Baal. El himself anticipates the joyous moment, but even 
the chief of the pantheon depends on dreams for informa- 
tion. When El dreams of nature functioning with abundance, 
he will know that Baal has come back to life: 

In a dream of Latpan god of mercy 
In a vision of the Creator of Creatures 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 213 

The heavens rain oil 
The toadies flow with honey. 

Latpan, god of mercy , rejoices 
His feet on the footstool he sets 
He cracks a smile and laughs 
He raises his voice and shouts : 

“ Let me sit and rest 

So that my soul may repose in my breast 
Because Miyan Baal is alive 
Because the Prince, Lord of Earth, exists " 

Shapsh, die sun-goddess who sees all, is dispatched to find 
BaaL When she finds him, he is battling once more with 
Mot Baal had attacked Mot, knocked him to the ground, 
and forced him from the throne of his kingship for seven 
years. And now, in the seventh year, Mot accuses Baal of 
having subjected him to seven years of annihilation. From 
Mot’s words, he apparently is referring to what Anath did 
to him to avenge Baal: 

“On account of thee, O Bad, I have seen shame 
On account of thee 1 have seen scattering by the sword 
On account of thee I have seen burning by fire 
On account of thee 1 have seen grinding in the millstones 


Soon Mot and Baal are again locked in mortal combat: 

They tangle like hippopotamuses 
Mot is strong. Bad is strong. 

They gore like buffaloes 
Mot is strong, Bad is strong. 

They bite like serpents 
Mot is strong, Bad is strong. 

They kick like racers 
Mot is down. Bad is down. 

As the fight is thus fought to a draw, Shapsh arrives and 
intimidates Mot with the threat of El’s punishment on Baal’s 
behalf: 



214 


CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


“Hear, O god Mot l 

How canst thou fight with AUyan Baal? 

How will the Butt, god of thy father , not hear thee? 

Witt he not remove the supports of thy seat 
Nor upset the throne of thy kingship 
And break the scepter of thy rule F* 

The god Mot was afraid 
The Hero , beloved of El, was scared . 

There are other Baal and Anath fragments. As long as 
nature continues to function and to malfunction, the conflict 
of Baal and Mot continues. The aim of the cult was always 
to secure the victory of Baal over Mot, to usher in a seven- 
year cycle of plenty, so that the populace may enjoy the 
blessings of abundance. 

As we have already noted, the fertility cult transcended 
Baalism. Text #77 is lunar, dealing with the marriage of 
Yarih ("Moon”) with the Mesopotamian lunar goddess Nik- 
kal (from Sumerian Nin-gal). The wedding is to result in 
fertility symbolized as the child that the bride will bear to 
the groom. The text is divided by a scribal line into two 
sections. The first part is essentially of masculine interest, and 
deals with the groom’s courtship and payment of die mar- 
riage price. The second part has to do with the ladies and 
the bride’s dowry. We may close our discussion of Ugaritic 
mythology with Yarih’s proposal of marriage: 

“I shall pay her bride price to her father: 

A thousand ( shekels ) of silver 
E'en ten thousand of gold. 

1 shall send jewels of lapis-lazuli. 

1 shall make her fields into vineyards 
The field of her love into orchards" 

The handsome price is of course beyond the range of normal 
human ability to pay, but the term muhr (“bride price”) is 
taken from real life. Moreover, his promise to make her fertile 
reflects the real attitude toward marriage, whose purpose 
was human fertility. A husband was like a fanner who culti- 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 215 

vates the soil so that it yields a harvest A woman, like a 
field, needs the seed and cultivation of a husband, if she is to 
be fertile. Our text is therefore a hieros gamos: a wedding 
of the gods, whose fertility brings on terrestrial abundance 
for mankind. 

The mythology of Canaan is important in more ways than 
one. Its chief significance lies in its effect on ancient Israel. 
Both where the Old Testament incorporates it, and where 
the Old Testament reacts against it, Canaanite mythology 
continues to exert its impact upon us through the Bible. 



NOTES 


1. The translations in the following pages have been newly 
made from the Ugaritic texts in my Ugaritic Manual, 
Rome, 1955. Some additional mythological fragments 
have since appeared in Ch. Virolleaud, Palais royal 
d’Ugarit II, Paris, 1957. 

2. Ugaritic Manual, pp. 269-70 (§20.766). 

3. Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21. 

4 Sahar (“Dawn” or “Morning Star”) is also connected 
with the rains of fertility in Hosea 6:3. The imagery of 
text #52, wherein God impregnates two human wives, 
reverberates in the Hebrew prophets; cf. Ezekiel 23 
(N.B. v. 4) and Hosea passim (e.g., 1:2 followed by 
3:1), Hosea connects this theme with agricultural fertil- 
ity; for depending on the relationship of the women to 
Him, God either gives or withholds food and drink 
(Hosea 2:10-11). 

5. These numbers are not used as loosely as meets the eye. 
For while ordinarily there is no eighth year in the sab- 
batical cycle, twice in a century there is in a peculiar way. 
Each jubilee ends with a sabbatical cycle in which the 
seventh year thereof (= the forty-ninth of the jubilee 
cycle) calls for the land to lie fallow; and then that 
year is followed by another in which the land is again 
to lie fallow. Accordingly the worst sabbatical cycle is 
a sterile seventh cycle the seventh year of which is 
climaxed by the eighth sterile year. See Leviticus 25. 



CANAANITE MYTHOLOGY 


217 

6. The concept of the creative word is familiar from the 
first chapter of Genesis. The Creation was effected 
neither by work, nor with materials, nor by tools. God 
simply says, “Let there be x,” and x comes into existence. 

7. See Moslem World XXXIII, No. 1, 1943, for “The Daugh- 
ters of Baal and Allah.’’ 

8. See Orientalia XXII, 1953, pp. 243-44. 

9. I have surveyed the basic ideas and bibliography of the 
Scrolls in Adventures in the Nearest East , London, 1957, 
pp. 132-43; and “Selected Books on the Dead Sea 
Scrolls,” Jewish Book Annual XVII, 1959-60, pp. 12-18. 

10. See my The Living Past , New York, 1941, Chapter VI, 
seal #14. 

11. II Samuel 23:31; I Chronicles 8:36; 9:42; 11:33; 12:3; 
27:25. 

12. II Kings 1:2, 3, 6, 16. 

13. For Beelzebub, see Matthew 12:24. 

14. See Antiquity XXIX, 1955, pp. 147-49, and Plate VIL 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Aisdeitner, J. Die mythologischen und kultischen Texte aus 
Ras Schamra, Budapest, 1959. 

De Langhe, R. Chapter in S. H. Hooke’s Myth , Ritual and 
Kingship, Oxford, 1958. 

Driver, G. R. Canaanite Myths and Legends, Edinburgh, 
1950. 

Gaster, T. H. Thespis , New York, 1950. 

Ginsberg, H. L. Translations of Ugaritic literary texts in 
J. B. Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 2nd ed., 
Princeton, 1955. 

Gordon, C. H. Ugaritic Literature, Rome, 1949. 

. Ugaritic Manual, Rome, 1955. 

Gray, J. The Legacy of Canaan, Leiden, 1957. 

Kapelrud, A. S. Baal in the Ras Shamra Texts, Copenhagen, 
1952. 

Pope, M. H. El in the Ugaritic Texts, Leiden, 1955. 

Van Seims, A. Marriage and Family Life in Ugaritic Litera- 
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Virolleaud, Ch. Numerous articles in Syria since 1929, and 
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Palais royal d'Ugarit, Paris.